Day 203 (14.10.07)
We arrived at the Sepilok bus station with plenty of time to spare as due to the celebrations of the past few days the ticket booth had been shut and we weren't sure we'd be able to get tickets. We bartered a little as they told us the price on the ticket was local price and we'd have to pay another 6 dollars which we luckily managed to get down to about 1.50 dollars. We set off towards Sandakan where we hoped to be able to visit the tourist information office and find out about a possible visit to Turtle Island where you can spend the night and watch turtles laying eggs - it sounded amazing.
When we arrived in Sandakan (at another cunningly located bus station which required another bus trip to get us into the actual town) we found the tourist info office to discover that it was closed for the next 4 days. We met a couple of other travellers who said that they'd looked into the turtle trip but that it was booked up for the next month. Oh well we'll just have to come back and do it on another holiday!
We went to get a bus out to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary which was our main reason for coming to Sandakan but found that due to the holidays the bus could only take us to the junction around 2.5km away from the centre. That was ok and thankfully the stifling heat of earlier in the day had calmed a bit as we set off with our packs. We found a room at the Sepilok Jungle Resort, which has beautiful gardens and is right next to the Sanctuary, and had some dinner and a quiet evening.
Day 204 (15.10.07)
Due to large amounts of deforestation to set up palm plantations in Borneo the Orangutans have become a protected species. The Sanctuary at Sepilok rescues Orangutans and over a number of years rehabilitates them to return to the wild. Parts of the sanctuary are open to the public to give education as to the situation of the orangutans and to bring much needed funds into the centre.
We arrived at the centre at 9am to take our place on the viewing platform ready for the orangutans 10am feed time. They are encouraged to the platform to feed and
over time are encouraged to platforms further into the jungle where human contact and assistance is decreased allowing them to become independent and able to fend for themselves in the wild. It was an amazing sight as the first orangutan (translates to Man of the Forest) swung into our view and headed for a few bananas. Over the next hour we were thoroughly entertained by about 10 orangutans and as we waited for the large crowds to disperse a large group of pigtailed macaques arrived to scavenge the remaining bananas climbing right onto the viewing platform next to us.
We explored the rest of the centre visiting the exhibition and watching the excellent video which helped us to understand the ways that the orangutans are rehabilitated. We had time for a spot of lunch then before heading back to the feed platform to get a good spot for the 3pm feed. We met a lovely English couple, Sandy and John, and picked our place on the platform. As we arrived at around 2.15 there were only a few other people there and there was already 1 male orang, shortly joined by a mother and baby team. We stayed for
a couple of hours watching the orangs and macaques - absolutely fantastic- until, as the last four on the platform, we were asked to go! It was scorchingly hot so we finished the day with an ice-cream before heading back to our place.
We spent the evening trying to make some plans for Australia and the next chapter of our journey. We looked into other things to do in the area but had enjoyed our day with the orangutans and quickly fallen in love wth these wild men and women of Borneo so we decided to go back again the next day!
Day 205 (16.10.07)
We met up with Sandy and John again at the day's first feed. As we waited the orangutans slowly made their way into the trees around the platform and sat watching us all until it was time for their breakfast. Every feed had been different so far with a different number of the orangs turning up and interacting with each other - its something we decided we could never get boerd of watching and almost asked if they had any jobs going!
There are various walks into the jungle that you
can do although the only one open to use when we visited was the Birders Tower trail. With Sandy and John we walked out into the jungle for the next couple of hours excited to reach the Birders Tower to find that...it had fallen apart! Oh well! We didn't see much in the way of wildlife except some lizards, butterflies and a couple of those seemingly ever present leeches but it was a nice walk. We made our way back to the centre to get some lunch and be in time for the afternoon feed.
We made the most of our last opportunity to watch the orangutans as they swung their way around the area and played together on the feeding platform. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time visitng this centre watching these amazing creatures which share over 96% of their genes with humans. Its incredible to note the different facial features and characters of each orangutan, they certainly are individuals!
Ice-cream 'o' clock came around and then we said goodbye to Sandy and John and went back to sort out our travel plans for the following day and wander around the lovely grounds at our resort.
Day 206 (17.10.07)
We spent the morning packing and chatting with fellow travellers before getting the 1pm bus to Ranau. We arrived a few hours later having passed some beautiful scenery and vast palm plantations. We found a place to stay and got some dinner and a coffee before this quiet town shut down at around 8pm!
Tomorrow we head to Kinabalu National Park to meet up with Anna and Kathryn again for our climb up Mount Kinabalu.
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